Stories of Faith April 2018
Joan Kahres, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Port Jervis, New York MNYS ELCA
A Church of Radical Welcome
I grew up in New York City, Borough of Queens, in the house my mom lived in through her lifetime. We had a church around the corner that I was baptized in (Evangelical Brethren that later merged with Methodist) and was confirmed and first communed in. My oldest brother was an organist, and we often roamed the neighborhood churches where he started subbing as organist, for a week or two. In my teens, my family transferred to a Presbyterian church in the neighborhood.
I attended Sunday School and learned the stories, memorized the verses, and went to church with my family as a younger child, but in my teen years, it didn’t make sense anymore. I felt I wasn’t doing life right. I should be good. I should know what was right and wrong. I should avoid trouble and sin. And the rules were strict and understandable.
I tried to be good. I’m sure many of my friends thought I was a goody-two shoes. I tried to avoid trouble, but I was always in the midst of it. You can’t be an island unto yourself when you have school and jobs and friends. It was frustrating.
My brother began playing regularly at a Lutheran Church near us, Redeemer Lutheran, and became an advisor to the youth group there. He invited me to join and I did. I met lots of kids my age and my future husband. We courted for five years and married in that church where we met. Paul was very active there and encouraged me to come to church and I did, but I still went to my Presbyterian Church as well.
One Sunday I came home from my Presbyterian church, quite grumpy as the sermon was again telling me to avoid sinners and live a “good” life. Paul suggested I come more often and maybe join Redeemer, and I decided to try it on for size.
With each pastor that was called to Redeemer, I grew in my faith and understanding. One encouraged me to become part of the community of faith. I felt comfortable with his encouragement and opened up, sort of like being a field tilled and getting ready for planting.
Another pastor taught me the Lutheran saying, “Sin Boldly”, which totally made me free again. I was human and God knew that. So, I could try the best I could to do what I felt needed doing, and even if it was wrong, God would understand my intentions and forgive me. Eventually, I even learned that I didn’t have to be in charge, that God can and will move me if I just listen for Him in my life.
Still another pastor showed me how wonderful it is to have a level playing field. Everyone being totally equal. When we walked into a council meeting, we were treated the same. Whether it was an old sage that was saying something, or a newcomer to the group, all were given the same attention and they were listened to, with the exact same respect. Equality played out through all his interactions, and was very deliberate and obvious. And it was wonderful.
So it was that I became Lutheran through and through. Fast forward to my retirement and moving to Pennsylvania five years ago.
As I was looking for a church, I remembered the sister church in our Synod of St. Peter’s in Port Jervis. Although I tried other congregations in Pennsylvania, they didn’t fit. When I came late to service a few times at St. Peter’s, I felt the spirit of the congregation, the acceptance and inclusion of children in worship, and the acceptance of all.
Pastor Patt reminded me of the pastor that welcomed me first into Redeemer. She made sure I gave my e-mail, but promised she wouldn’t overwhelm me. I was surprised when she left that January. But the draw was still there. The spirit in the congregation was like balm to me.
Pastor Wollenburg was amazing. He gave such supportive and encouraging sermons and fed us with hope and strengthened us. It was one of the most inspiring “between pastors” times I had experienced. And he looked after our future interests as well. With Synod and his help, Pastor Aaron and Patti were matched and brought to us.
Pastor Aaron and his family have shown us the importance of the radical welcome that Jesus modeled. I feel that we are a congregation that (although there may be a resistance to the changes at times we humans feel) has reached out to the community further than we have in the past. And although I have no knowledge of the history and roots of the congregation, I feel we are benefiting from this outreach more than we have in the past. Because of my personal journey through the years, I see the hand of God supporting us firmly in His palm.
I am proud to be part of this congregation, this place of welcome and understanding. The care of the environment (Solar Panels, less coffee hour paper goods, reuse of bulletins) is a constant. The care for our community (Warming Station, groups needing space and our lending it) is simply our calling to be God’s face in this place.
So it is with great hope and confidence that I feel we will continue to persevere to be a part of the fabric needed to patch this world together as caretakers of God’s gifts to us. I thank God for our congregation.
The Newsletter of St. Peter’s Port Jervis
A church of radical welcome and compassion
Thursday, March 29th – Maunday Thursday – Dinner Church begins at 5PM, come when you
can; worship concludes in the sanctuary with the stripping of the altar
Friday, March 30th – 6PM Good Friday Service
Saturday, March 31st –10AM Ukrainian Easter Egg Decorating
Also join the ministry support team at 9:30AM to help prepare the church for Easter
Sunday, April 1st – Easter at 10AM
Choir meets every Wednesday at 7:00-8:30PM
Sunday, April 8th – Sunday School becomes Faith Explorations! & Joy Choir will sing!
Every Sunday following church, during coffee hour, kids will gather upstairs for music, an exploration and prayer. The exploration will only be about 30mins. Hope your kids will join us on this adventure of a lifetime!
Our Beautiful Earth (Four Seasons Chorale’s spring concert) Sunday, April 8 at 3:00PM
The Four Seasons Chorale will present their spring concert, “Our Beautiful Earth” at the 1st Presbyterian Church. Tickets are $10 adults, $8 senior citizens and $5 students. The Chorale is directed by our very own Kathy Brink.
Saturday, April 14 – 9AM – Meditative Hike (see Rev. Aaron for more details)
Sunday, April 15 – New Members Sunday
1PM – Contra Dance!
Join us for an informal folk dance called by Rev. Aaron. Music by our very own Mothers of Folk; Kathy Brink & Travis Benson. No experience necessary. You are always welcome to come and listen to the music! Donation based. All processes go towards the 2018 Gathering in TX.
Sunday, April 22 – Earth Day & Vegetarian Potluck! Also join us to pass out reusable bags at the grocery.
Saturday, April 28 – 9AM – Meditative Hike (see Rev. Aaron for more details)
Sunday, April 29 – 10:30 Interfaith Service at the Deerpark Reform Church
This will be an exciting worship, where you can learn about how you can get involved and volunteer this summer here in Tri-state area. Our very own Rev. Aaron will be preaching.
Sunday, May 6th – Lyric turns 2! Sundae’s on Sunday!
Immediately after worship come make your own Sundae in honor of Lyric’s birthday as we raise money for the 2018 youth Gathering in Texas.